Bizarre 1-900 hotline commercials from back in the day

Originally published at: Bizarre 1-900 hotline commercials from back in the day | Boing Boing


Finally, a useful 1-900 number!




ETA: And apparently it was not just a joke on The Simpons…there was an actual Corey hotline.


I wonder if any of those numbers are still active (though I’m not curious enough to call them from my own phone.)


That’s a wonderfully weird collection. I note they drop in a couple of UK 0891 numbers there as well…

I used to work for a certain telecom monopoly in the UK around 1987. Lots of chatlines advertised in newspapers and magazines. Working in the exchanges, we had handsets that could be plugged into circuits in the old electromechanical Strowger racks.

The chatlines were all moderated - you might have around 10 people with one moderator, there to cut people off if they were using bad language etc. Unmuting my handset and dropping a few random comments in used to drive the mods nuts - they got so confused trying to figure out where this extra person had come from :grin:. Oh to be 19 again…
Serves them right though, lots of teens getting grounded when the bills came in - they tended to be seriously expensive.

Oh my now I’ve gone down a rabbit hole…:

“What makes people all over America break down and cry like this?”

Their phone bill of course you scamming arsehole!

ETA: Good lord, the BT chatlines got raised in the House of Commons in 1988:

"British Telecom has created a monster which, like a time bomb, is ticking away in thousands of homes of unsuspecting parents. Very few parents today can be certain beyond reasonable doubt that they will not be blasted by the shock waves of an astronomical phone bill.

It is not good enough for British Telecom to refer to parental control. Talkabout is addictive and parents are not at home all the time. Parental control moves into action, but only when what has happened comes to their knowledge on receipt of a telephone bill which in some cases may exceed £1,000. I have even heard of a phone bill of more than £2,000 for a quarter as against the average of about £40, and these parents are very shocked indeed."

Sounds like kids these days buying DLC on their parents accounts… Plus ça change , plus c’est la même chose


If someone does, please report back. I’m also wildly curious.

If you are jonesing for a number to call that does work, allow me to offer you the following:

  • Bad Breath checker - 605-475-6959
  • Rejection Hotline - 212-479-7990
  • Santa Hotline - 951-262-3062
  • Angry Santa - 605-475-6971
  • CPTA Announcement - 914-737-9938
  • It Could Always Suck More - 605-475-6961
  • Callin’ Oates - 719-26-OATES (62837)
  • How To Entertain an Idiot - 605-475-6964
  • Saul Goodman - 505-503-4455
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I watched a lot of bad TV in those days and I swear I never heard of a single one of these. I see the McDonald’s/Coke people weren’t satisfied with the millions they imagined they’d make off their POS feature Mac and Me, they had to mine every avenue of potential revenue! Can anyone tell me what the gag was with 9099-CRY? What were they really crying about?

Though I suspect PPK’s “Their phone bill of course you scamming arsehole!” is the true answer.

I’m surprised the Trump Organization hasn’t thought of Making this sort of phone scam Great Again. They could suck up a lot of dough with promises of wisdom from the Dear Leader. Lucky callers may even get to speak to our Phone-y Freak live!" [Odds 1 in 500,000,000].


I think that a lot of these late night 900 hotline ideas were based on the idea that people who are up at a late hour are somewhat vulnerable, inebriated, or mentally ill and these kinds of commercial would attract these demographics through stroking their paranoia and making them think, “that was nuts, I should call that and see what it means”

I assume this only because I worked for an As-Seen-On-TV type company during my college years, and many products were marketed on the notion that the product is 20 cents worth of plastic in a 15 cent package and the shipping costs approximately 40 cents and the handling costs are negligible because their workers are handling the product so quickly that the overall premarkup cost is like $1.25. You could sell their products for 19.95 or two for 29.95 and you are just bathing in cash. If the product is a bit of a dud, you can sell them at 2 or 3 for 19.95 any you are still making crazy money.


976-WAKE was the least bizarre service. It was an alarm clock.

I distantly recall that the advertising patter portrayed some sad sack who didn’t use 976-WAKE, was fired, and was heard intoning resignedly to his boss “…I really do need this job…”


I remember a 1-900 number for the Fat Boys before they finally broke up.
it’s disappointingly not on YouTube.
when I used to stay up late to watch Night Flight syndicated on my local NBC affiliate (didn’t have cable), there were exactly two advertisers that would pay for the slots and therefore only two ads that just ran over and over during each commercial break: Maxell cassette tapes with a rollercoaster themed ad, and [stage whisper] FANTASY PHONE


I always thought these phone lines where you have to pay per minute to talk to someone were a weird idea. I mean in general you have to pay for phone service per usage (or at least used to universally), it just seemed weird that you could start a business that would just charge people to their phone bill with no protection mechanisms at all. You call this number, and then it bills your phone bill. (I think that they transitioned to requiring a credit card?)

of course then we had the same problem with SMS.

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